Children today have every kind of technology available to them. While technology is a wonderful resource for education and entertainment, the richest pleasures in life don't require a battery. Here are five reasons to unplug and take your children outdoors every day.
There are obvious health benefits of Vitamin D for children, but even just being out in the open, fresh air can change moods for the better. The warmth of the sun and the feeling of a cool breeze provide multi-sensory stimulation that children find refreshing and exhilarating. It's good for Mom and Dad, too.
Color and variety
If you don't have your own garden, often the city will have a demonstration garden or a well-kept park. Ask people in your community where the most beautiful parks are located. A well-kept garden offers a variety of colors and textures. Children learn to observe beautiful flowers while learning that there are boundaries when you say, "Don't pull the flowers. Let's just look at them. " Children begin to notice the difference between the way the grainy dirt, the smooth, paved path, the soft petals of the roses, the prickly bushes, etc. all feel.
One thing that the outdoors has to offer that electronics typically do not, is the opportunity for quiet observation. Children can hear the quiet sounds of birds chirping, or leaves rustling in the wind, or the way their feet crunch in the gravel as they tromp across it. In Autumn, they can grab fallen leaves by the handful and listen to them crinkle up in their hands – all of this without the distraction of a background soundtrack that so often accompanies electronic games and movies.
Parents also need to get outside away from the hustle and the man-made noise. Take advantage of this time you've made to appreciate nature and just exhale some of the stress of your day. Think of this time as hitting the reset button. How has your day been going so far and how would you like the rest of the day to turn out? Our thoughts control how we feel emotionally; so really try to use this time for positive thinking and to retrain your thoughts to be upbeat and positive when needed.
Freedom to explore
One of the easiest and safest ways to give your children a little bit of control in their own lives, which is critical for their developing self-esteem, is to give them the freedom to explore the outdoors. Encourage them to take the lead for a change. Tell them, "Show me where to go. I'll follow you." Children will feel a sense of empowerment and your relationships will grow when you let them take the lead in exploring.
You can play "Show and Tell." Have your children find the most beautiful spot and lead you to it, then tell you all about it. Let them choose where to go and what to see. Your children will soon look forward to this time because they know it will be a special time for them as you let them practice leadership and good decision-making in a safe environment.
Set a schedule for unplugged, quality time and do your best to stick to it. This time is different from the rest of the day because it is about them and only them.
Your children may not know how to express it well, but they will notice when you are unplugged and giving them your undivided attention; they will love having it. And being able to look forward to that time will help them to be calmer during times of the day when you have some work to do.
Alicia is a mother to four children, including identical twin boys. She is also a former high school English teacher. She writes about family and home on her blog. She enjoys the funny things her children do and say and is the author of Motherhood or The Widening Gap Between Showers (available on Amazon).